As much as she may try, it appears as though interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel has lost the momentum generated by late leader Jack Layton following last year's federal election that, for the first time ever, gave the party Official Opposition status.
Now, as MPs prepare to return to the House of Commons, Turmel finds herself trying to act like of the party Canadians showed confidence in last summer instead of allowing the Liberals, under Bob Rae, to act as the ‘unofficial' official opposition.
Speaking in Ottawa on Wednesday, Turmel told her 101 MPs that she will make Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first majority budget her top priority and vowed to protect the interests of Canadian families.
Turmel, who was hand-picked by Layton to replace him until the party found a full-time replacement, has had a deer-in-the-headlights look in the House of Commons and appears to have bungled the opportunity Canadians, and Quebecers, gave the New Democrats.
Meanwhile, Rae has all but hijacked the opposition agenda in the Commons by pressuring the governing Conservatives on a number of issues. It also has Canadians wondering who is the real opposition to the Harper Conservatives.
As for Harper, he has enjoyed a near free ride since the election because the opposition appears to be disjointed and organized, The Liberals simply don't have enough MPs to make life miserable for them, while the NDP, under Turmel, just hasn't been effective.
When politicians return to the House of Commons, it will be up to Turmel to back up her tough talk with action. She must show Canadians she's prepared to hold Harper's feet to the fire on issues such as job creation and health care. She must be prepared to represent Canadians who could be affected by the next federal budget.
Some cuts will be needed to bring the deficit under control, but someone needs to make sure they are not mean-spirited or cause damage to the social programs Canadians depend on.
It will be March before the NDP elects its next leader, plenty of time for Turmel to either regain lost ground or make Canadians wonder why they placed their faith in what has traditionally been a third-place party. It's damage that could be hard to overcome for whoever the party's next leader is.